Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies

Committee Director

Melva R. Grant

Committee Member

Philip A. Reed

Committee Member

KaaVonia Hinton


Many Black women have chosen the federal government as their employer; a review of literature provides few studies on the Black women leaders in the federal government. Similarly, there is limited research about these women in academic settings. The purpose of this qualitative portraiture study is to explore the lived experiences of Black female leaders and the (a) challenges they face in leadership and (b) resilience strategies they use to overcome those challenges. The researcher used the portraiture methodology, which embraces traditional qualitative data sources, such as interviews and documents as well as creative expressions to include poetry, music, and art that juxtapose the American black culture. It also provides the researcher, who is also a Black woman leader in the federal government’s stance. Together this rich data corpus allows one to gain a richer understanding of the Black women leaders.

Resilience theory guided analysis and the study adds to the limited research base about Black women leaders in the federal government. The portraiture methodology affords an empirical, yet creative articulation of the Black women’s voices, wisdom, vision, and essence using a metaphoric blank canvas. The findings of this study support and expand upon important recent work suggesting that Black women in leadership face opposition due to the impact of implicit bias concerning their race and gender. It also retorts the need to capture Black women’s leadership stories and describes how the intersection of race and gender affected their work identities. The themes generated from this research, include advice for aspiring Black women leaders.

Overall, the research findings suggest Black women’s leadership has been shaped by their mother’s influence more than any other formal leader. The study demonstrates the role of forgiveness towards maintaining resilience. The Black woman’s leadership experience is one that is often based on: A desire to serve others while leading them, a belief that work/life balance is essential to personal organizational sustainment, and spiritual growth through their personal journeys. Despite the opposition these women faced, they continued to pursue their goals and each achieved the honor of being the first Black woman to hold their positions.


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Sunday Conversations art piece by Lonnie Ollivierre

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Islanders art piece by Laverne Ross

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Wings art piece by Gwen Gorby